From the school of fish looking oddly out of place underneath the 1-35 bridge near the Pearl Brewery to the bright orange “Torch of Friendship” sculpture downtown near Alamo Plaza, San Antonio’s public art installations both impress and inspire. But first you need to know where to find them.
Entrenched in lush, tropical landscaping and waterfalls, the Museum Reach of the Riverwalk, is home to 11 public art installations. As you stroll this area of the river, which begins at The Pearl Brewery and continues until the Lexington Street bridge, 25 giant fish are waiting to greet you under the 1-35 bridge. But don’t look for these fish in the water. High above the river, suspended from underneath the bridge is where you’ll find this truly unique installation, aptly titled F.I.S.H.
Designed by Philadelphia artist, Donald Lipski, each fish measures seven feet in length and is a replica of the long-eared sunfish, which are native to the river.
Another must see along the Museum Reach, is the Faux Bois (false wood) grotto and waterfall, by Carlos Cortes. The structure stands three-stories high and is located between the Camden and Newell Street bridges. The cave inside the grotto features a staircase that takes you into the jaws of a giant carving of a jaguar head. Complete with stalagmites and stalactites, the grotto offers benches, a picnic area and recessed lighting that illuminates the many hand-carved artist “follies” in the evening.
Scattered throughout downtown, public art installations feature cultural inspiration set against the backdrop of some of the city’s most prominent landmarks. Just a few feet from the Tower of Americas, the grottos lining the exterior wall of the Convention Center feature a collection of paintings, mosaics and sculptures by various artists. Tucked inside each of the seven grottos, abstract and literal artwork enriches the park with scenic murals and lively sculptures.
Downtown San Antonio isn’t the only place to immerse yourself in public art installations. A trip to the airport can also be an adventure in art.
Visitors to San Antonio get their first glimpse at the city’s public art installations with “The Gate Portals,” by local artist Cesar Martinez. The portals, located in terminal A, greet visitors with vibrant glass and ceramic mosaic murals that celebrate the city’s rich culture and history. The murals, found in gates 2 through 15, depict local favorite scenes and events, such as the Riverwalk, Sunken Gardens and Fiesta.
No journey through the city’s eclectic collection of art installations would be complete without a visit to the Central Library, located downtown. Gracing the 2nd floor atrium of the library stands “Fiesta Tower,” an eye-popping 26-foot glass sculpture by renowned artist, Dale Chihuly. The free-standing tower sits atop a ledge in the atrium and boasts over 900 individual swirling tubes of colorful hand-blown glass. The structure was commissioned in 2003 to celebrate the library’s centennial. Other works of art include a 36-foot mural, by Jesse Trevino, depicting famous San Antonio landmarks and a sculpture of a mosaic-tiled cow, donated by the students of the Jefferson High school Fine Arts program.
So, whether you’re running errands around town or looking for free entertainment, San Antonio’s array of public art is well worth investigation. The next time you’re scouting for something to do, try playing tourist in your own city and discover how public art installations can transform an ordinary afternoon into cultural, whimsical and sometimes historical adventures that are sure to capture your imagination.
For more information on San Antonio’s public art installations, visit http://www.publicartsa.com/.